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I usually take away an idea or two from each event that I produce. I had the pleasure of planning and producing three multi-day events for Siemens over the past month and my experience at each show made a unique impression on me.
Listening – At the recent Industry Leadership Conference, Siemens had a customer panel who, with very senior Siemens management in the audience, were frank about some key issues they had with Siemens. When you hear things in person it makes the content more personal and therefore more impactful than hearing the same things second or third hand. The sessions were recorded and so impactful that Siemens showed clips of the panel discussion at the Drive Technologies Management meeting two weeks later. How’s that for an actionable takeaway?
Service – The recent Siemens Building Technologies Annual Management Meeting was held at the JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson. As I noted in a recent blog, I was blown away by their attention to service and how simple, one-word ideas can translate into digestible concepts easily executed by their staff on a daily basis. They highlight these one-word concepts on a concise, efficient document called Luxury Notes, which is hanging in the service corridor to serve as a visual reminder of the simplicity of service excellence.
1½% – As the leader of the recent Drive Technologies Management Meeting was closing out this meeting he asked the audience if they thought the event was worth 1 ½%. Why? 1 ½% represents the portion of time that the audience had spent at the meeting as part of the total amount of hours they work in a given year (3.5 meeting & travel days/230 work days). In essence, 1 ½% of their work year is at this meeting. Did the audience get the right amount of new information to come up with ideas on how to best use it? Did they reacquaint and make new connections with other attendees? Did they have fun? Did they get their 1½% ROI?
One of my favorite hotels is the JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson, AZ.
I have planned and produced four very successful meetings in the past seven years at this location including a management meeting just last week, with over 400 attendees.
Starr Pass has everything I look for in a hotel meeting site: close proximity to the airport, elegantly understated, comfortable surroundings, great event space both inside and out, divisible ballrooms, exquisite food and most importantly, a tremendous staff.
In conversations with Eric Duff, our Convention Services Manager, he shared with me the JW Marriott Commitment and a Service Notes Calendar, which serve as consistent reminders of the quality of their service.
At last week’s meeting, as I was walking through the service corridor behind our ballroom, I was struck by a particular wall hanging. A one-page document called Luxury Notes that exemplified my conversation with Eric. Broken down to simple one-word ideas, it wasn’t a long-winded mission or vision statement but simple concepts that each employee can master and execute during each and every customer contact.
Great service comes from hiring enthusiastic people and providing them with simple, attainable goals.
Colors are everywhere. Whether you are wearing them or just walking to and from the office, there is no mistake that this world is exploding with different colors. It comes as no shock, then, that colors can make people think and feel a certain way. For example, the color yellow can remind someone of happiness, fall, or the sun. The color blue can remind people of sadness, the sea, or possible the sky. No matter what colors makes you feel what, colors are not going anywhere.
In this month’s issue of SPIN: News, they further explore the idea of how colors can affect a meeting, starting from your attire all the way to your food selection. In the article, “Are You Color Correct?,” editor Terry Matthews-Lombardo breaks down which color means what. Wearing navy blue for business attire can symbolize that you are trustworthy and conservative. This is a good choice in color when making a presentation. When an individual wears black, it shows power and sophistication. In everyday attire, brighter colors are more accepted. Dark green, since it is the color of money, can make you appear as successful and secure. Another example of an everyday color is pink. Wearing the color pink can show a person that you are soft and compassionate. One should wear pink when there is a difficult matter to discuss.
Not only does the color of your clothing speak for itself, but also so does the food that you offer at your meetings and events. Foods that are light green and white are a symbol that the protect eyes and can help fight cancer-causing agents. Examples of this type of food include: broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips. Foods that are white can boost immunity, lower cholesterol and control one’s blood pressure. Examples of this type of food include: garlic, leeks, onions, and shallots. Foods that are orange keep one’s eyes, bones, and immune system healthy and can also protect against cancer. Examples of this type of food include: carrots, mangos, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes.
SPIN: News did a nice job in explaining what these colors can do for your meetings and events. At almost every single event, people are dressed in a particular color that can say something about their personality and confidence. The same goes for food. Food is at almost every event; why not understand how managing the colors of your food can actually do for your event? For more information, visit SPIN: News.
One of my favorite emails that I receive is from an old friend from Chicago’s South Side, Debbie Shames who runs Eloqui, a presentation and communication training company, which sends out an email once a week titled “Eloqui Tip of the Week.”
For this week, the tip is “Storydoing.” According to a recent HBR article, Good Companies Are Storytellers. Great Companies are Storydoers. The major companies that were listed as storydoers, and not just tellers, included Starbucks, IBM, Target, Walt Disney, American Express, Jet Blue, and Apple. A storydoer can be described as a company that successfully operates on elevated ambition and making people lives and the world better a better place to live. Storydoing drives tangible action, including product development, social corporate responsibility, sustainability, HR policies, and fair compensation.
When a company focuses on giving back and taking action, there are definite benefits that come with it. The results of storydoing are 70% higher numbers in social media mentions, reduced media expenditures, revenue growth of 10 vs. 6% and increased share price compared to companies whom only just storytell. Companies that can walk the talk and put their message into action have a greater chance for success. Make sure everyone in the company lives by and can articulate the same message, and behaves accordingly. Turn your stories into a reality.
With checking-in baggage costs and the time waiting for your luggage at baggage claim on the rise, more business people are trying to use carry-on luggage. Therefore, the need to learn how to pack is important.
There are many techniques that people use to squeeze several days of wardrobe into a small bag. After doing some research on the best way to pack a bag efficiently, I found this impressing video: Pack for Weeks in a Carry-on.
This is a simple way to pack for an extended amount of time with several pieces of clothing. Next time you have to pack, keep this method in mind!
After studying in Madrid, Spain for the past four months, needless to say it was wonderful to come home. Having the amazing opportunity to live in Spain and travel to several other European countries opened my eyes to new things and gave me a greater understanding of different cultures and traditions. Two obvious dissimilarities compared to the United States are the preparation of food and the act of eating, which vary greatly in Europe, particularly in Spain.
To start off, when eating breakfast in Spain, you are introduced to different kinds of meats, cheeses, olives, crostini’s, smoked fish, and warm milk to accompany your cereal. This is unlike the typical American breakfast consisting of omelets, pancakes, hash browns, bacon, sausage or cereal. Another difference is the importance of lunch in Spain. People take a couple hours to prepare and enjoy their mid-day meals, usually including a glass of wine or a beer. To them, this is the most important meal of the day, as they spend their time relaxing and catching up with friends and family. Oftentimes, employees take a lunch break of an hour and a half to three hours during the workweek. In contrast, the United States puts a stronger emphasis on having extravagant dinners instead of lunches. Because lunch is the main meal in Spain, Spaniards do not start eating dinner until around ten in the evening.
Not only did the time at which we ate differ, the selection on the menu did as well. Ham is the most prevalent type of meat in Spain and chicken is harder to come by. I loved Manchego cheese, which comes from the La Mancha region of Spain. One of my favorite unhealthy dishes was the Croquettas, consisting of cheese, chicken, and potatoes. Another beloved entre was the seafood paella, containing whole shrimp and prawns. These shellfish needed to be taken apart before eating. Also, in the Spanish region, olives, olive oil, and bread are very common with each meal.
Foods were unique in each country that I had the pleasure of visiting this fall. In Munich, sausages and pretzels are hugely popular. When staying in Paris, crepes could be found on almost every busy street corner. Something interesting that I came across in Rome is the lack of chicken included in pasta dishes.
All these different types of foods can relate back to the meetings or events that we plan or produce in the United States. If you are working with a company that has many foreign employees and attendees, acknowledge their culture and traditions. Make an effort to include some foods that may be more comfortable to them. For example, if there are attendees from Europe, include sliced meats, cheeses, olives, and crostini’s for breakfast. Another way to integrate the culture of the attendees is through the theme of the event, which could be an “Around the World” buffet, by providing dishes and stations from the different countries that the attendees are from. Play along with these ideas. The attendees will greatly appreciate the effort that was made to recognize their cultural backgrounds.
Throughout my career in event planning, I have had many interesting experiences that I never could have predicted. One especially memorable one was working with Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner.
Gardner’s win over Russian Aleksandr Karelin at the Sydney Olympics was nothing short of epic. Karelin was the considered to be the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time and was undefeated and un-scored upon in 13 years of competition. The crowd in Sydney first sensed an upset in the making when Karelin broke his grip on his opponent. The announcers went wild, along with the crowd.
Rulon Gardner’s defeat of Alexander the Great is one of the greatest moments in Olympic history, ranking right up there with the 1980 Miracle on Ice. It was completely unexpected, totally thrilling, and it endeared this baby-faced young man from a Wyoming dairy farm to the nation.
In 2001, I had the opportunity to do some speech writing and coaching with Rulon Gardner, who these days makes his living as a motivational speaker. It was fun getting to know him, and we did a good job helping him find a way to tell his story in a way that highlighted some important key messages, while making it sound like him, and not like it was written by someone else.
One really fun moment we had was when I was planted in the audience and “randomly” selected to wrestle him on stage. That’s not something you ever forget! The other amazing memory I have is a morning I spent coaching him for an evening speech college in Fort Wayne, IN. That day was September 11, 2001. To the college’s credit the speech went on as planned that evening, but stopped when President Bush came on television to speak to the nation. After the President was finished, Rulon resumed his speech. He did a wonderful job and brought a few hundred people some comfort when we really needed each other.
Gardner has had an eventful life in the 12 years since his historic win in Sydney. He suffered hypothermia and frostbite after a snowmobile accident, after which he lost a toe. He also survived a plane crash. In 2011, he staged a remarkable comeback of a different sort as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” where he lost a substantial amount of weight, down 173 pounds from a height of 474 pounds in just 16 weeks. His life has been anything but dull. I learned a lot from him in the time I spent with him, and it was a terrific experience for me to help him move to a new chapter in his life. And, I saw first-hand the benefit an inspiring speaker can bring to an event.
Will we see you this summer in London, Rulon?
Watch the video Gardner shows before being introduced to an audience.
Recently, Esprit Productions planned and produced the Siemens Leadership Conference, which is their most senior group in North America for two of their four sectors. This conference included the Infrastructure & Cities Sector, as well as the Industry Sector. This situation presented an unusual complication. How do you address a meeting where there would be a shared general session, and then break up the groups and produce a meeting where each group would feel equally important? The answer is to create two general session set ups in separate rooms.
Both rooms had the same set-ups, including a diamond thrust-stage to bring the audience closer to the presentations, AND two large high-definition projection screens. The session started by using both screens to create a vivid panoramic backdrop that extended the width of the stage. This backdrop was used before the meeting started and for introductions.
During the presentations, the two screens were used independently. One side was used to project a close up (image magnification) of the presenter and the other side was used to display the presentation itself. Remember that the point of PowerPoint is not to be the speech but merely to support what the speaker is saying. So, it’s a great feature to be able to see both clearly.
Using two large high-definition screens in conjunction is a great way to keep the audience engaged. First off, it’s just flat out cool. When your meeting attendees start to assemble, they’ll be immediately impressed with how fabulous the screens look with animation loops of their people, products, and services. They aren’t static like conventional sets. The color and beautiful display are engaging and dynamic. Practically speaking, it’s a great use of the technology available for modern meetings. By utilizing two screens, you aren’t as confined. You don’t have to choose between magnifying the speaker or displaying the accompanying deck of slides. The larger than life presence of both will keep your audience engaged, focused, and will make your meeting memorable.
On Thursday, December 15, 2011, the Iraq War officially ended. I have spent some time in the past few weeks reflecting on the early days of the war and the story of Jessica Lynch.
As you probably remember, Jessica Lynch was a Private First Class in the United States Army in Iraq at the beginning of the war. On March 23, 2003, the convoy in which PFC Lynch was riding was ambushed. Her Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Lynch was badly injured and captured by Iraqi forces. She was held as a POW, but was famously rescued by American forces from an Iraqi hospital in early April 2003.
Upon her return to the United States, Lynch was inundated by requests for interviews and speaking engagements. In January, 2004 Esprit Productions received a call from Harry Rhoads, President of the Washington Speakers Bureau who asked if we could to help her prepare.
Holly Francis, Esprit’s speech coach, and I flew out to Lynch’s hometown of Palestine WV and met her and her family. Lynch told us the real story about what happened to her and her fellow soldiers in the Battle of Nasiriyah. There were a lot of rumors and misinformation about what happened including that she has tried to fight off the Iraqi soldiers. Lynch was eager to set the story straight. In fact, her weapon jammed during the accident and soon after she was knocked unconscious. Testifying before Congress in 2007, she said “There’s soldiers out there every day that are doing heroic things…We don’t need to create them.” We worked with Lynch create a speech that would set the story straight and be source of inspiration to others.
A month later she came to Chicago for a speech coaching session. We invited several of Esprit’s clients to join the session to give their feed back (see photo below).
I came across this interview with Lynch from CNN.com and it’s wonderful to see how her life has moved on. She’s a veteran, a mother, and a college graduate.
Meeting her and helping her tell her story was one of the great thrills of my career. I will always remember how modest she was. As she always said “I am just another soldier.”